Chief of Operations Mark Dudley

Park Service Profiles

Going the Extra Mile

Mark Dudley graduated from Clemson University on a Friday and went straight to work as a park ranger at Lee State Park that following Monday. Though it may sound like a quick turn-around, Mark had plenty of time to decide whether the park service was the career for him.

Originally from Orangeburg, Mark spent six summers working at Santee State Park doing everything from cutting the grass to cleaning the bathrooms. The whole experience of working at a park and interacting with visitors appealed to Mark, which lead him to take a full-time ranger position at Lee State Park and, just three months later, to take the Parks Management Assistant position at Hickory Knob State Park. For four years he worked in various aspects of managing the large resort park including the front desk, supervising housekeeping staff, and operating the tackle and pro shops (not to mention meeting his wife there as well!).

A business manager position took Mark back to his hometown near Santee State Park, where he was responsible for all retail-related tasks. After 12 years at the place where he grew up spending summers, Mark exchanged his office view of the park grounds for PRT’s central office in Columbia to serve first as an Operations Specialist. He has held his current Chief of Operations position for five years.

Even though Mark now manages operations of the entire state park service, he doesn’t consider it as far cry from where he started.

“I still consider myself a ranger,” Mark admitted, “whether we put on a shirt and tie or a hat and a badge, we still all have the same goals of protecting resources and serving our visitors every day.”

Customer service is a huge part of working for SCPRT, and this has proven true time and time again throughout the 27 years Mark has been with the agency. From Hurricane Hugo and accidental deaths, to budget challenges and minor complaints…Mark has seen it all. But one positive remark from a visitor can make it all worth the challenge. To him, it’s all about putting in the effort so that patrons have the best possible experience at state parks.

“It’s all about going the extra mile,” Dudley said when asked to summarize his job, “I always heard there are no traffic jams along the extra mile.”